Kirsty Nash

Kirsty Nash, Research Fellow
The Centre for Marine Socioecology
University of Tasmania

Life Inside the Lab

What is your research topic? My research fits into three main themes.  The first is the resilience of marine social-ecological systems.  Second, I study the functional and spatial ecology of fishes – so the roles fish play within their ecosystem and how they move and use space.  Finally, I have an interest in small-scale fisheries and how we can most effectively monitor the effects of these fisheries on both ecological communities and human health.

What was your best day of science? The first journal article I ever read was in Marine Ecology Progress Series in the library at Southampton University when I was doing my Undergraduate degree – I remember feeling overawed by the thought of having to study from journals.  My best day in science was when I published my first journal article – it was in Marine Ecology Progress Series!

What was your worst day in science? In the first 6 months of my PhD I let the stress of it all get to me. I think the transition from a structured environment to a research PhD is quite hard – suddenly you are in charge of your own research, no one is telling you what to do, although there are people guiding you.  A turning point for me was reading an article about the importance of feeling stupid to do great research:  It helped me put things into perspective!

KLN Photo.jpgDr. Kirsty Nash is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania. Follow along with her science on Twitter at @NasherK.

This photo is from her PhD graduation at James Cook University in Australia.

What are you studying at university? My undergraduate degree was in Oceanography with Marine Biology in the UK.  I then completed a Masters of Applied Science in Tropical Marine Ecology and Fisheries in Australia studying coral disease.  I worked as a field-based lecturer for a number of years and that inspired me to do a Masters of Education by distance learning to support my teaching.  I then went back to a research role, and after a while as a research assistant, I did a PhD in Australia exploring the resilience of coral reef ecosystems.

What are some of the highlights of your career so far? The highlights all centre around the interesting places I have been to for field work, the great people I have interacted with and the beautiful coral reefs I have dived on along the way.  For example, recently I went on a field trip to the Philippines – it was to work with two people I had met on my Masters course.  Now one of them works at a research institute in Norway, one works at a university in the Philippines and I work at a university in Australia.  It was so nice to collaborate with friends, but also to see how diverse our paths had been since we had finished our Masters Research.

What does your average day look like? There is no such thing as an average day for me!

What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? Love my dive gear!

Life Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? Buckinghamshire in the UK.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? Being outdoors – running, surfing, walking….

kirsty_30july2012In this picture Kirsty is at Lizard Island, Australia where she was looking at herbivorous fish feeding movements on the reefs. She was trying to figure out if the larger fish feed over larger areas -and they do!  This picture was taken after the research group was done with diving for the day, it was low tide and things had been going well – hence time for photos!

Do you have any pets? I wish – too much moving to have a pet.

Do you have any fun hobbies? I do a bit of printmaking.  Mostly linocuts – it is nice to do something creatively different to science with my brain.

Big Picture

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? Interest in the topic was my driving force.  I had worked outside academia for a while and hadn’t thought I would do a PhD but then the opportunity presented itself and I found a topic I was really interested in so I went for it.  I wouldn’t have done a PhD if I hadn’t found a subject matter I was passionate about first.

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Don’t underestimate the power of background skills – I wanted to be a marine biologist so I concentrated on biology, but mathematics and writing are the core skills of what I do and I had to learn those the hard way – keep going with the basic skills of statistics, writing etc. as they will make it much easier to follow your passion in science.  Also try and gain skills in communication if you can – being a scientist is more and more about communicating what you have done to a broad audience, not just other scientists.  So it is worth spending time learning some media or video skills if you can.

Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? Because there is a lot of un-tapped potential out there in women who could shape or change STEM in amazing ways but are not getting the support or opportunities or maybe most critically are not recognizing their own potential!

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? Watching the diver in an aquarium tank at the Epcot Centre in Florida – I was 11 and as soon as I found out I could dive and be a marine biologist, I never wavered from that goal.

Here Kirsty is in Seychelles in the Indian Ocean measuring the structural complexity of the reef – so how rough the reef surface is, how many nooks and crannies there are for fish to hide in.

Conception Big Wheel.jpg

Why were you drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job? I was inspired by diving and that led to a passion for science – I wanted to know how things worked underwater, what all the fish were called, how they interacted etc.  So I think my hobby led to a drive to be a scientist, rather than setting out to be a scientist.

What was your biggest struggle during your degree? Sitting still at a computer!  I worked outside for a number of years and so becoming fairly sedentary at work was a hard adjustment.  But going on long field trips helps that!

Are there any women in STEM who are inspiring you right now? I can’t pick one out, and I often find that my inspiration comes from outside STEM.  I follow ‘Inspiring Women’ on flipboard and delve in when I need some inspiration!


What is your favorite book? Hard to pick just one… some top picks are:

  • Science book: A guinea-pig’s history of biology by Jim Endersby
  • Non-fiction: An island to oneself by Tom Neale
  • Fiction: We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

What is your favorite desk snack? Gingernuts
What is your favorite cartoon? Not a cartoon fan….
What would you listen to while writing? Hackney Colliery Band – keeps me going when I am doing data analysis!
What was your favorite subject in high school? Photography
What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? Little skewers useful for making cheese and pineapple party snacks
Organization nut, or curated chaos? Organisation nut.
Any other fun fact about you… I love eating and making ice-cream
What color socks are you wearing? Bare feet

Contact Kirsty on Twitter @NasherK

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